Luge Canada

Canada's luge team gets a million dollar offer
By Kristina Rutherford

A year ago, they had For Sale' signs on their helmets. Now, they've got a million dollar offer.

Canada's Olympic luge team on Tuesday morning was informed its title sponsor - Fast Track Group, which responded to the helmet ads about a year ago - has offered up $1 million for a gold medal at the Vancouver Olympic Games, to be split between the athlete and the Canadian Luge Federation.

"It's a huge, huge deal for us to have that kind of support," said Alex Gough, who finished fourth at the 2009 World Championships and is considered one of Canada's best hopes for its first-ever Olympic luge medal.

"On the other hand, that doesn't change how we're going to approach our races."

The Alberta-based Fast Track company, a financial education specialist, is also offering $50,000 for silver and bronze, and $5,000 for the top Canadian in each of the men's and women's singles and doubles races.

Vancouver's Jeff Christie says the news is "pretty awesome," but he hasn't really thought about how he'd use the cash yet.

"I would be very happy. But I'm thinking about what I am going to do on four runs on Saturday and Sunday before I contemplate about the money."

Calgary's Gough, 22, was fourth at the 2009 World Championships, and heads into the Games ranked No. 7 in the world. Since her 20th place finish in Turin, she's slowly climbed the rankings, thanks in part to the added support her team has received in the run-up to the 2010 Games.

Gough says after the Vancouver Olympics, funding is "up in the air."

"I think from the athlete's side, no one really knows what's going to happen with our funding after the Olympics, whether we're going to have the same support we've had over the years. So this news is huge."

As the title sponsor, Fast Track sponsors the team just over $1 million over five years.

The Canadians have the day off training and then hit the track for the next three days before competition begins on Saturday.

Christie says that extra training and runs on the Olympic track at Whistler could be a difference-maker.

"The top 10 guys in the world are the top 10 because they're damn good. I think these extra runs have been giving us just what we need to be among that top 10 and challenging."